The USDA Forest Service has already experienced significant shifts in staffing and resources and estimates that within a decade, it will spend more than two-thirds of its budget to battle fires, while mission-critical programs will continue to suffer.
Meanwhile, these catastrophic blazes are projected to burn twice as many acres by 2050.
Last week, Secretary Vilsack reiterated his call for Congress to change the way wildfire suppression is funded to prevent an ever-increasing amount of the Forest Service’s operating budget going to fight fires. He and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell met with regional foresters just as the 2016 fire season has begun with five times more acres already burned than this time last year, following 2015’s record-setting fire season.
Year after year, the increasing cost of wildfire suppression forces USDA to transfer funds away from forest restoration projects that would help reduce the risk of future fires, in order to cover the high cost of battling the blazes.
In 2105 a record 52 percent of the Forest Service’s budget was dedicated to fire suppression activities, compared to just 16 percent in 1995.
You can read more about USDA’s 2016 fire outlook on our website: www.usda.gov/fireoutlook.
Join us throughout the month of May as we take a look at how USDA’s approach to collaborative and climate smart policies have supported farmers, ranchers and forest landowners as they adapt in the face of a changing climate.
Follow along on usda.gov, on the USDA blog and by using #USDAResults, or catch up on Chapter V on our Medium site.